PBL: Two semi-final slots up for grabs

Three teams will be vying for the two available semi-final slots as the Premier Badminton League enters its business end, with the last two league matches to be played at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium here on Wednesday.

Bengaluru Topguns Ashwini Ponnappa, Arvind Bhat, and Srikanth Kidambi, at practice ahead of Premier Badminton League 2016 (PBL), in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Three teams will be vying for the two available semi-final slots as the Premier Badminton League enters its business end, with the last two league matches to be played at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium here on Wednesday.

Awadhe Warriors (17 points) and Delhi Acers (15) have already booked their semi-final berths and two among Chennai Smashers (13), Mumbai Rockets (13) and Bengaluru Top Guns (8) will join them. The day’s first match will see the Rockets take on the Acers and the match will be followed by Smashers versus the city’s very own Top Guns.

Bengaluru in particular are the most disadvantaged among the lot. Yet to win a single tie, they need to have a near-perfect day to harbour any hope of progressing. A 5-0 win will fetch the team six points and take them though to the last-four. But any other result might need head-to-head records and mathematical calculations to be taken into account.

“We have only eight points but we are looking at it very positively,” said coach Arvind Bhat. “In fact if we had won one trump out of all these matches, we would have ended up on 11 and been in a comfortable position to make it to the semis. It’s just that one match that has made the difference. We hope that in the Chennai match we get that one extra game.”

What gives Bengaluru a faint hope is the fact that World No.12 P.V. Sindhu, the star in Chennai ranks, cannot be played as a trump as she has already been used twice (the permissible limit). Taking on her will be the impressive young Chinese Suo Di. Among the likelier of results is for Suo Di to lose but if her team manages to win the other four, they still have a chance.

“Out of the five we need to win four including our trumps,” explained Bhat. “We do really hope Suo Di can play her best. She played three games against Saina [Nehwal] and we saw Sindhu play three against Han Li. And Suo Di is better than Han Li. We are hoping that the pressure will take its toll on Sindhu.”

On the other hand, Mumbai will be looking for a minimum of two points to assure itself of a semifinal spot. A resounding loss for Mumbai coupled with an emphatic win for Bengaluru might lead to a scenario where all three teams will be tied on same points.